[LCSD] Ch-ch-ch-changes

3/7/09 AM Update:  Minor updates made.  A few sentences added here and there.

I’ve been sick all week, so forgive the lack of posting.  But I’ve still been paying attention as best I can to the LCSD, and particularly LHS.  From what Tre’ has said (among others), it sounds like it’s been an interesting week.

First, the two policy changes:  I have no qualms with the cell phone policy, except for my normal qualm that simply telling a group of people they can’t do something is not as good as convincing them that it’s not a good idea to do something.  But I also understand that LHS probably isn’t there yet, so this approach has some value.

The hoodie policy, on the other hand, I just think is silly.  Here I definitely think getting buy-in from the students would be a better approach, as there’s really no place to go but punitive with this policy (my evidence: hoodlum day).  I also think that if the reason for this is to make sure the security cameras can see students…. tough.  I really don’t like security cameras, so I don’t exactly have a lot of sympathy.

Overall, though, what I have heard is that a lot of people are on edge and unsure of what’s coming – and understandably so, given the past year (and month) of events.  Some administrators have been out of the building (and it appears that both Volz and Masog were out of town when the Finch/Yates switch happened), and Alexander has been spotted walking the halls of the high school, which I find interesting.

I don’t bear Yates any in will, particularly, and I should make that clear.  I think he’s got an impossible job ahead of him, and that’s before taking into account how he ended up as LHS Principal. (As a side note, one imagines Ken Ray either laughing or crying into his well-deserved drink these days.  Possibly both.)

So I want to try and articulate one (but certainly not the only) vision of what’s happening in the LCSD right now:  For the better part of the decade, there have been two opposing power blocs (at least) in the district.  One centered on Robinson, and the other on Alexander.  The Robinson faction was viewed – not entirely fairly – as containing anyone who supported him and most of his appointees, including Kelley, Zarate, Finch, and through their written support of him, Lebanon Truth.  (Like I said, I don’t think it’s fair to lump all of those people together, but the Alexander camp has done so.)

The Alexander camp includes, AFAIK, Alexander, about 1/2 of Wineteer, Fandino, Laura Baker, PIE supporters, and probably some other folks I don’t know about or am forgetting.  Further, the Alexander camp tends to rhetorically lump anyone who supported Robinson or was appointed by Robinson in together in a negative light.  This is, of course, silly and wrong.  But they’ve largely succeeeded in doing so.

That said, I think one way to understand the district right now is this:  The Alexander camp is in a period of massive ascendancy.  Robinson is out, Finch has been reassigned, and Yates – the chosen son for Shimmin and Alexander, among others – is at LHS.   The academies are going.  Scuttlebutt is that there is a new round of dislike of LT.  A renewed focus on discpline and behavior (and not, directly at least, learning and/or preparing students for the 21st century) – a guess I’m making based on a combination of the two new policies instituted by Yates and what’s come out of Alexander’s mouth in the past few months – is kicking in.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say, if we’re viewing this just as a power struggle, the Alexander camp has basically won.  His two major demands have been met:  Robinson and the academies are out.  Further, his guy – Yates – is in at LHS, he (and Wineteer) survived the recall, and the Superintendent Selection Committee has some very pro-Alexander people on it – Lyndon Brown, say.

There are two tricky parts, however.  The first is that this isn’t a power struggle occurring a vacuum; at its core, this is about competing visions for education in Lebanon.  And on that front, there are far more than two points of view.  In this sense, the ‘power struggle’ is never over, because there will never be (and should not be) total consensus on how the schools should work.  There is plenty of room for healthy disagreement.

The second tricky part is that with the dominance of what I’ll just call the Alexander camp, and taking into account the fact that this has long been at least partially a struggle about what education should look like…. the onus is now on the Alexander camp.  Their vision for education is going to be implemented, for the most part; now it’s time to see if that vision succeeds.

This is an oversimplification, of course, since there are a lot of people with varying points of view involved in the creation of education policy and practice in the LCSD.  It’s almost never the case that a single point of view creates everything.  But it’s hard to argue with a school board and Principal on the same page, an interim Super who doesn’t want to make decisions that will outlast his tenure when possible, and a climate where people don’t want to stick up for fear of being nailed – yes, I think that’s the case right now.  Alexander has never handled disagreement well, and with the various personnel moves of the last few years, and the addition of a pro-Alexander Principal at LHS, I would imagine both clasified and licensed staff at LHS in particular don’t want to make waves right now for fear of being noticed by the school board, and not a good way.

The thing that keeps bugging me is this:  My view of how the district is working is not one I want to be true.  It’s how I see the Alexander camp viewing the district, and particularly LHS.  I think Tre’ Kennedy has a much more compelling vision:  Acknowledge that there are differences of opinion, but also acknowledge both that students need to come first and that we all have to work together and find a way to coexist even while holding differing opinions.  It’s the last part that I think is in danger of being out of anything Alexander has control of; certainly he hasn’t shown much willingness or interest in things like dialogue or entertaining other points of view – and in some cases, neither have other members of his camp (*cough*masterscheduleKimFandino*cough*).  Taking into account what I said about the necessity of having most – if not all – of the district working together to create the policies and practices that lead to education happening, it stands to reason that if the LCSD is going to succeed in educating students, then there has to be long-term buy-in from the staff (and the community, including parents) on what the vision for the district is.  This is crucial. Now that the Alexander camp is in charge, it is their responsibility to bring all the stakeholders in and get them on board.  Robinson might have been terrible at that (and by terrible I mean terribly on getting buy-in for a vision; the dude had vision, that’s for sure, but he didn’t do well at selling that vision to others, or so it seems in retrospect), but the current group has a big advantage in Lanning, who seems to understand this on a very fundamental level.

Do I think the odds are good that now that there is one point of view dominating district politics that we’re all of a sudden going to see a renewed interest in collaboration?  Frankly, I do not; not only do most winners of a power struggle – which is how I think Alexander understands what’s going on – turn around and give away power, but I think the Alexander bloc has a very 2005-era George W. Bush mentality:  He now has political capital, because he won, and he’s going to spend it.  That mentality didn’t work out to well there, and I don’t think it’s going to work out well here.

But again, I think Tre’ Kennedy – no matter what you think about him – does have an interest in collaboration, and I see him working his butt off to foster that process.  Maybe rather than listening to me, the pessimist, you should listen to him and those like him.  They are committed to local control, community input, supporting the district, and in general doing what they think is necessary to bring the district together and improving the conditions for students in Lebanon.  And right now, those things are a lot more important than Rick Alexander walking the halls like a conquering hero.  This isn’t – pardon the joke – high school anymore.  Alexander’s not the frackin’ prom king.  This is a bit bigger than that.

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One Comment on “[LCSD] Ch-ch-ch-changes”

  1. LHS staffer Says:

    The real head of this snake is Kim Fandino. This has been her plan along. Having been in all of the group meetings with students and staff since Tuesday when Yates arrived, she is the only voice heard other than his. He was not the one the hiring committees picked just because of this unholy aliegns.


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